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Monday, September 3, 2012

0241: Aquinas’ Five Ways and Aristotle (IV)

Entry 0241: Aquinas’ Five Ways and Aristotle (IV)

On the sources of Aquinas’ Second Way of demonstrating the existence of God, Leo J. Elders remarks that

“In Summa contra gentiles I, 13 Aquinas seems to ascribe the argument to Aristotle. However, upon closer inspection the text does not say more than that Aristotle shows that in a series of efficient causes infinite regress is not possible and that, therefore, there must be a first.”

Elders then explains that “Aristotle's text is found in Metaph. II (a) 2, 994 a 1ff., where he [Aristotle] sets forth the principle that in a series of causes, whether material, formal, efficient, or final, there must be a first, but it is not used as a demonstration of God's existence. Aristotle could hardly have done so because God is neither a first material nor a first formal cause. In his commentary on the text Aquinas refrains from reading a demonstration of God's existence into these lines.”

Finally, Elders concludes by saying that “Van Steenberghen's statement [in Le probleme de l'existence de Dieu dans les écrits de S. Thomas d'Aquin, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1980, p. 187] that the Second Way is entirely taken from Aristotle must be qualified.” (1)


(1) Leo J. Elders, The Philosophical Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, (Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1990), 100.